King's Dozen: 12 Powerful Quotes About Race & Class In America

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King's Dozen: 12 Powerful Quotes About Race & Class In America

Exclusive: In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we look at excerpts from interviews with Killer Mike, Tech N9ne and others about race and class relations in America.

Dear Reader,

Would you like some heavy-handed commentary about race? That’s a trick question. You obviously don’t, and after a couple of years attempting to force it upon you, we’re going to ease up on the long think pieces about race and Hip Hop in America. I’ve seen the plummeting page views and the comments accusing HipHopDX of race baiting. I don’t agree with those comments, but I’m aware that one of the main reasons we exist is because there’s a segment of our readers that consistently get what they like, need or want from HipHopDX. If we keep providing those things, you keep coming back, that ad money keeps rolling in and I’m a happy editor. As Fat Joe once said, “It’s simple mathematics.”

You’ll see plenty of the same dumb ass sites that try to sell you smut and reasons to turn up 364 days of the year pull a 180 and attempt to pass off some Martin Luther King Jr. commentary on January 20. That shit in incredibly disingenuous, but it’s also good for their bottom line. Throughout the five years I’ve been one of the editors at DX, one of the things I’ve taken pride in is us being consistent in that regard. If a rapper wants to open a dialogue about race, we don’t try to sell you some alcohol all year and then wait until Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Black History Month to suddenly have an “Up Ye Might Race” moment.

That said, I don’t think the issue of race is ever going to disappear. There are some people who truly don’t see colors, and if they can pull that off, I applaud them. There are others who naively think we’re in a so-called “post-racial society” just because the 44th President of the United States happens to be a black man. And while black men largely perform the majority of Hip Hop, it’s appreciated, consumed and supported by people of all races, colors and creeds. Somehow all of that gets lost when we have a Lord Jamar versus Yelawolf moment, and people become scared to talk about race at all. There have been several interviews conducted in recent months where we ask an artist about the Lord Jamar quotes and they give us a great, balanced response. Then they call back and ask to have that part edited out. Somewhere there’s a happy medium, but I’ve learned the hard way we can’t force a discussion about race on our readers. We’re here to facilitate conversations with and about the people in Hip Hop you enjoy. So on a day that becomes a traffic grab for most sites, I want to showcase some of the more poignant conversations artists have engaged in about race on our site. And if you’d prefer something lighter, we’ll soon have a traffic-grabbing list for you too. Either way, I hope you’ll find it informative and entertaining.

Killer Mike Says Martin Luther King Was “A Nigga With An Attitude.”

Original Interview Run Date: September 11, 2013
Interviewer: Soren Baker (@SorenBaker), Omar Burgess (@omarburgess) & Justin Hunte (@TheCompanyMan)
Read the entire interview here.
Quote: “This Martin Luther King, right here [points to shirt] was a nigga with an attitude—so told to me by Andrew Young. He was there, not Al Sharpton who wasn’t. This Martin Luther King was at a crux. This Martin Luther King owned a gun. This Martin Luther King still probably had a little perm you could see...hair slicked back. This is a different King. This was Martin Luther King at the crossroads Hip Hop is. This is him becoming a man, seeing what the greater purpose is. Hip Hop was only born in 1973. Hip Hop is just now 40 years old, so Hip Hop is not a very old man. Hip Hop is just getting to the point where it can actually become a legacy music, because at 37, 38-years-old, now you have people who are getting financially comfortable and can go to shows. You get people who are financially able to say, ‘I can invest in that.’ These are also people logical enough to know that, ‘I’m going to play this after the kids go to sleep.’ So Hip Hop is just becoming what this Martin Luther King would become. But I think Martin Luther would be a supporter of Hip Hop. He shot pool. He went to Selma, Alabama. He went to Tuskegee. They wasn’t singing Gospel in pool halls when he was organizing that; they were singing the Blues. If he was listening to Blues, then he definitely would’ve been listening to Hip Hop...and Scarface.”

Brother Ali On Social Justice & Uncomfortable Conversations

Original Interview Run Date: April 30, 2012
Interviewer: Andres Tardio (@AndresWrites)
Read the entire interview here.
Quote: “I was raised in a way where racial justice was always in the center of my life, always. It was a number one theme in my life. That led to me caring about justice for everybody, but racial justice is what brings me to this. So, I’ve always been talking about this. The consensus lately, especially amongst privileged people is that, ‘It’s okay, racism is over. We’re post-racial. We’re colorblind. We got a Black president.’ But these issues didn’t go away because we have a half-Black president, or a not-completely-White president. The issues are still there and they’re still really big. But, things like this Trayvon thing have forced these conversations to happen again. We see people revealing things that I don’t even know if they knew about themselves. The reality is that this country isn’t going to be majority-White for much longer. Sorry [smiling]. Sorry, it’s just not. So, what is it gonna mean for our country to have more than half of our society come from being marginalized, oppressed and kept out? The country can’t survive like that. This economic situation, the recession, has been pushing people into the gutter. Now, we’re all in the gutter together.”

Tech N9ne Says He Needed To “Break Into Colored Houses”

Original Interview Run Date: April 24, 2013
Interviewer: Justin Hunte (@TheCompanyMan)
Read the entire interview here.
Quote: “The first single we released off Something Else, it’s called ‘B.I.T.C.H.’ Breaking In To Colored Houses. That’s what I needed T-Pain to do. Give me a chorus that’ll help me break into black folk’s house through that TV. They see me on that TV like, ‘Woah, that’s that Tech N9ne dude!’ The first thing I said on that song was, ‘Putting all the facepaint I can put on.’ I’m not changing even on the song where I’m breaking into colored houses. It’s me. I’m breaking into your house like me. Not something that you’re used to—something else… But you got a lot of black folks coming to my show now and saying, ‘Not all us are missing you.’ And I am a lot different than the regular rapper. That artwork? No, not a regular rapper. They say that looks like Rock N’ Roll, Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeath, Alice Cooper shit. I have those influences. I’m not going to change that. I’m not the everyday run-of-the-mill. So just imagine how everyone felt when they saw me on the BET Cypher, ‘That’s the same motherfucker?’ That’s so beautiful to me. You can’t stop it no matter how much you talk shit about it, saying, ‘That’s the devil shit.’ Here I am. I’m going to keep on popping up.”

Crooked I Details The Polarizing Nature Of Racism & Class Warfare

Original Interview Run Date: August 31, 2013
Interviewer: Bruce Smith (@Brillyance)
Read the entire interview here.
Quote: “I like to tell white people, Mexicans, Asians, that a lot of times, it’s a class war. If you’re lower class, then you a nigga to the upper class. It don’t matter what color your skin is. You still a nigga. You a white trash nigga. You a Mexican nigga. They want us to be down here, dividing and conquering and fighting each other, and not seeing the bigger picture. You supposed to be on my side! I don’t know what you doing. You a poor white motherfucka talking about, ‘Fuck Trayvon,’ and the upper class is like, ‘Fuck you, you are Trayvon.’ And they don’t even understand. We’re all supposed to be united against that type of shit, but they don’t get it. When something like Trayvon comes to the national media level, I love that shit, because we need awareness. I’m not gonna be mad. I see niggas on Twitter like, ‘Man, my homie got shot, and nobody even care.’ Well, guess what? Somebody cares this time, so let’s try to make the best out of it and change some shit.”

Bubba Sparxxx Says Lord Jamar’s White Rapper Comments Were Not Untrue

Original Interview Run Date: November 1, 2013
Interviewer: DX Staff (@HipHopDX)
Read the entire interview here.
Quote: “I have the utmost respect for someone like Lord Jamar. He’s one of my predecessors in this, and I would never deny that at its core and the foundation of Hip Hop culture…it started predominantly as a black and Latino thing. But white people have always been present in Hip Hop since the very beginning. You can’t say that white people haven’t been around since the beginning. There are some very pioneering forces that are white. I myself chose to take color out of it, but if someone wants to continue to draw those lines, people keep erasing them. I don’t see where you can draw that line with anything more than a pencil, because those lines continue to get more and more blurry. But at the root of what he is saying, it’s not untrue.”

Quelle Chris On Why An Honest Dialogue On Race Is So Rare

Original Interview Run Date: Unpublished
Interviewer: Omar Burgess (@omarburgess)
Quote: “There’s a lot of different layers to this, and it’s not something that can be answered in one question in one interview. But, for one, America is all about the illusion of things. Some countries will just say, ‘This is the way we are, and we’re telling you this is the way that it is.’ But America has to convince people and get them to believe things are a certain way even if it’s not. They know these people are on top, and we’re on the bottom. But here, we still kind of feel like you’re not that bad even if you’re on the bottom. It’s the exact same situation, but we just view it differently. Somehow, somebody made it popular to think racism is over. So when you bring up something considered racist, people go, ‘Oh my fucking god!’ If I said something horrible like, ‘All crackers should die,’ or ‘All black people eat chicken,’ people would go crazy. But a lot of black people do eat chicken. There’s truth in that, and it’s not a racist thing. At some point we started thinking racism didn’t exist. So when you say something even slightly racist, people immediately get up in arms

It’s not that racism is gone; of course, racism isn’t gone. But people flip out over it because they want to believe that racism isn’t there. They want to believe that we’re not different races and are all some homogenous race. They’re predicting that will exist in the next 20 years, but the reality is, even when we’re all fucking mulatto, people will be like, ‘You’re light-skinned mulatto. You’re dark-skinned mulatto, but I’m mulatto with a Filipino nose.’ The same idea is always gonna exist because we always feel like we need to separate and compare each other. That’s the nature of the human brain. What Denmark was saying is, we’ve come to terms with it.”

Freeway Rick Ross Sounds Off On Racially Motivated Sentencing

Original Interview Run Date: December 10, 2013
Interviewer: Soren Baker (@SorenBaker)
Read the entire interview here.
Quote: “I think what’s happened with the crack and the powder cocaine was obviously racially motivated. When I went to prison and Hutch and them put that out saying, ‘Where’s Freeway Rick?’ not one white person had been federally prosecuted for selling crack. There had been a few arrests, but they allowed them to go to the state where they received drug diversion. In federal court, you’re going to get a mandatory minimum of five to 10 years. So we definitely knew it was racially motivated. And then we found out that crack and powder cocaine were both identical drugs. One was no stronger than the other, and you didn’t make more money selling crack than you did off of powder. An ounce of cocaine was an ounce of cocaine whether it was cooked or in powder form. Even now after changing the [Fair Sentencing Act] to reduce the disparity down to 18:1, they still have it 18 times worse than the powder [offenders]. On top of that, they have guys who have been in prison for 20 and 30 years, and they didn’t make it retroactive. Those guys would be released immediately if they said, ‘OK, we’re gonna give you the 18:1 disparity sentencing.’ If it’s illegal now, it was illegal when they first implemented it. So why not make it where everyone who was ever illegally sentenced under it would get the shorter sentence? They don’t want to do that because they say it’s going to cost too much money.”

Big K.R.I.T. Details The Impact Of The Civil Rights Movement

Original Interview Run Date: January 16, 2012
Interviewer: Sean Ryon (@wallysean)
Read the entire interview here.
Quote: “[I saw the effects of the Civil Rights Movement] with people being a little bit more accepting of where you come from and how you were raised. Even me, growing up in Mississippi, I’ve been around a lot of different cultures, and even knowing when somebody didn’t really like black people. Being raised around those kinds of people and then growing up and seeing the kids kind of [saying], ‘You know what? This is not what I was taught…this is not what I thought,’ and really seeing how music is able to bring people together for the most part, it’s crazy. Now, with a lot of people there’s a big stereotype as far as where I’m from [Mississippi] and how the racism is, and it’s just like, yeah, it is like that and it still is out there, but the thing about Mississippi is if somebody doesn’t like you for your race, they don’t hide it. It's not a hidden thing, it’s very obvious, and I feel like I can deal with that more than somebody pretending like they like me and they don’t. But I feel like music has definitely bridged the gaps between generations, opened a lot of people’s eyes, gave a lot of different people voices and gave me the opportunity to explain why I was raised like this but I don’t even feel that way. It just just brings a lot of depth [to human interaction]; music is a big influence in actually being able to go back and look at Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X and a lot of people that were like, ‘We need to change.’ A lot of artists go back and listen to their speeches and a lot of their writings and interviews and get motivated like, ‘I need to do more than just rap for myself and whatever city I’m from; I need to be rapping for everybody and trying to make music that’s overall special.’”

David Banner On The Concept Of Hip Hop As Black Music

Original Interview Run Date: September 5, 2012
Interviewer: N/A
Quote: “I did an advertisement for Gatorade; I did the ‘Evolve’ commercial. When they heard the song, they actually thought that was an old Gospel song that Gatorade had stolen. It was funny, because for the most part, everyone that worked on that song was under 35. People said, ‘I didn’t know David Banner could do something like that.’ And you know why? Because we don’t buy it! Everybody talks about the music being degraded, but it’s because we don’t buy it. A friend of mine that works at Sony Records was talking about Adele. And some people were saying, ‘Well that’s just a white woman singing black folks’ music.’ Yeah, but white folks are buying it. If we bought Anthony Hamilton…if we bought Erykah Badu the way that we’re supposed to, then it wouldn’t be no problems. Advertisers follow money. The one thing that I learned from Universal Records—and I actually think it was a blessing—excuse me, but I’m just gonna say it how I feel it. White people are not emotional. Whether it’s how many listeners you have, how many views you have or how much money you make, they will do it. If we can couple that with talent, then we could show our people.”

Chuck D Says Black People Have No Power In America

Original Interview Run Date: March 15, 2012
Interviewer: Paul Arnold
Read the entire interview here.
Quote: “Look, when President Obama got in there I had no expectations, zero. As a Black man in America, none. But what President Obama did bought me some time… to prepare in the wilderness of North America and the United States Of America on how do you see yourself on this planet, as opposed to how do you view yourself within the confines of the United States. So, my thing is like this, if Black folks here don’t connect into the [conditions] of the rest of the planet, people of the world, people of color, different ethnicities, cultures and whatever… then we’ll be a slave in America forever. And we are. We’re children in America. We have no power. Black people have no power in America. None. Zero. Don’t own enough property–economically we’re at the same level that we were 40 years ago, and worse than 45 years ago. Statistics don’t lie. Yeah, you can name some ballplayers that got a lot of money... But power? What the fuck does that mean? We’re worse off in many ways than times of our past, so…”

Scarface Calls Out Media Outlets For Portraying Him As Racist

Original Interview Run Date: January 3, 2014
Interviewer: Justin Hunte (@TheCompanyMan)
Read the entire interview here.
Quote: “I don’t know why people try and make it seem like I’m against what the White boys is doing in Hip Hop. I dig that shit. At the same time, the fucking ‘boss man’ make a nigga look stupid and y’all look smarter. They’ll make a nigga look terrible and y’all look better. Don’t do us like that. We fuckin’ dope. You got muthafuckas like Black Thought, Lupe Fiasco. [Lil Wayne] is dope. And there’s niggas that don’t get a spotlight that’s cold as fuck. It really disappoints me that they’re trying to say that I’m against the White boys in Hip Hop. I’m not against the White boys in Hip Hop. That shit is fuckin’ dope. But at the same time, ‘Big Boy’ and them—whoever’s running this shit—make us look dope, too. Don’t make us look fuckin’ stupid like we ain’t got a junior high school education. Give a nigga some shine that’s dope.”

Killer Mike Advises Blacks To Divest From The Democratic Party

Original Interview Run Date: April 23, 2013
Interviewer: Bruce Smith (@Brillyance)
Read the entire interview here.
Quote: “The bigger question is, are black people too forgiving of their leaders and politicians? The bigger question is what is the real place for black people in the Democratic Party? What concerns of black people are going to be addressed? In particular, a group of people within the black population…half of black population is black men, that’s double the unemployment rate. Understand the travesty of that. You have a citizenry that is double the unemployment rate, yet 60 to 70 times more likely to be incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. You’re selling drugs to feed yourself because there aren’t jobs, yet you vote for politicians that don’t insure your men get jobs. That’s not just a strike at Obama, that’s saying black people and the Democratic Party…because there’s not an option for black people to vote Republican, because they don’t. They just don’t. The few that do, I respect and admire because they do it for whatever their own principles are. Whether I agree with them or not, because they have the courage to step out of line because they have a firm belief in something.

But for the most part, black people, before they wake up in the morning, before they eat their cereal or drink their coffee, they know they’re gonna vote Democrat. And they should demand something back. You deserve some reciprocity for loyalty given to this party for the last 50 years. You deserve more than pictures of Robert Kennedy and Dr. King on your wall. You deserve more than the feeling of feeling good because someone of your color is in office. You deserve something for that. So the bigger question, that I can firmly give an answer to, is that I think it’s time for the Democratic Party to give us something or for us to leave the Democratic Party.”

RELATED: Is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream Deferred? [Editorial]

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